Tag Archives: Queens Centers for Progress

Op-ed: Fast-food wage hike could harm New York health care industry

| oped@queenscourier.com



Gov. Cuomo has established a wage board within the state Department of Labor to consider raising wages of workers in the fast-food industry to $15 per hour. Hearings held by the wage board have included compelling testimony from fast-food workers about how difficult it is to survive on the earnings typical of that industry.

As executive director of Queens Centers for Progress (QCP), a nonprofit providing a comprehensive range of services to children and adults with developmental disabilities for 65 years, I have firsthand knowledge of another group of people whose earnings make it difficult-to-impossible to make ends meet: our direct care staff.

More than 400 of QCP’s 600 staff members have direct, hands-on responsibilities for the people we serve. They dress, feed, bathe, toilet and provide daily care to people with significant disabling conditions. As part of their jobs they must go through background checks and extensive training. There are thousands of similar staff doing similar work across New York State.

The salaries we are able to pay staff are determined, and limited, by the operating rates available through our government funding sources, primarily Medicaid. We cannot raise the price of a product or service to generate more income. Our starting salaries for direct care staff are several dollars per hour less than the $15 target being discussed for fast food workers.
We already have difficulty filling direct care openings, and these positions turn over at a high rate. Many staff who find this work rewarding are forced to choose other jobs for purely economic reasons, thereby depriving the people in our programs, who have come to know and depend on them, of a familiar, caring presence. Increasing the wages of fast food workers alone to $15 would only make this situation worse.

However deserved it may be, a significant increase in wages for fast-food workers, while ignoring other hardworking but low-paid employees in the developmental disabilities field, would have a terribly negative impact on services to some of New York State’s most vulnerable citizens. It would increase the likelihood that someone considering a direct care job would not take it in the first place. It would increase the likelihood that existing staff would leave their job for a fast-food position because the wage difference was too great to ignore.

It would truly be a case of unintended consequences, where something done in a desire to help one group of people would make matters worse for others. This is not sound public policy.


Queens Centers for Progress celebrates 65 years in the community

| agiudice@ridgewoodtimes.com

Photo courtesy QCP

From their humble beginnings operating out of the basement of a wood-framed house in Queens 65 years ago to now servicing over 1,500 people at several different facilities, the Queens Centers for Progress (QCP) has grown to become a leader in helping people with developmental disabilities.

QCP was founded in 1950 as United Cerebral Palsy of Queens (UCP) by a group of parents who needed services for their children with cerebral palsy. The agency operated out of the basement of a house in Queens before their first building was erected at 82-25 164th St. in Jamaica in 1958.

As the children grew, the facility expanded, doubling in size in 1966 to begin providing vocational services to those it helped.

The group then expanded again in 1974, building the Natalie Katz Rodgers Training and Treatment Center at 81-15 164th St. to provide day programming for people who were living in institutional settings.

In 1979, QCP began providing residential services with the opening of the Robert T. Groh Residence in Jamaica Estates, which houses eight seniors.

During the late 1980s, a Day Habilitation site for 150 people was constructed in Bellerose, Queens, creating five residences, providing a home for 10 adults each. QCP also added services for seniors, focusing on community-based recreation and health education for those reaching retirement age.

“One of the elements of developmental disabilities is that it really doesn’t get cured. I mean, it’s a condition which is going to be with someone for their entire life,” said Charles Houston, executive director of QCP. “As the child grows, they need specialized educational services and therapies, and as they get older, they need other kinds of services.”

In 2001, UCP officially changed its name to Queens Centers for Progress, reflecting their services to both cerebral palsy patients and those with various developmental disabilities.

Photo by Anthony Giudice

Photo by Anthony Giudice

QCP now services over 1,500 people of all ages, from all walks of life, providing a place to live and work, life skill training, education and therapy. The agency prides itself on individual-based programming for each of its clients.

“The overall approach that we take is developing plans for people very individually,” Houston said. “You really have to start with where each person is individually in terms of what their abilities and interests and goals are and then develop a range of services really tailored for that person to try to help them make progress and achieve their own goals in terms of being more independent. So that means very different things for different people.”

QCP helps its clients become involved with the community through a successful community-based employment program.

“Most of our job-related services are out in the community in a program model called Program Employment, where we have somebody go right out onto a job site after our staff arranges with an employer and they actually do the training…there rather than here,” Houston said. “It’s a much better way to develop lasting job placements.”

QCP also hosts several events throughout the year to help raise money for their services. On Saturday, April 25, QCP will host its 39th annual Footsteps for Progress Five Mile Walk. Approximately 250 participants will meet at QCP located at 81-15 164th St. and walk to Kissena Park, around the lake and back to QCP, where brunch will be served to the participants.

WPIX reporter Narmeen Chodhury—a Queens resident—will be the MC for the walk. New York State Senator Tony Avella will be the event’s Grand Marshal for the third consecutive year, and Queens Park Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski will lead the walk.

Registration is at 8:30 a.m. and the walk will begin at 9 a.m.


Developmentally disabled Queens woman who went missing in early December returns home

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of NYPD

A developmentally disabled Richmond Hill woman who went missing in Jamaica last year has returned home seven weeks after she disappeared, according to one of the centers where she receives services.

Bibi Kadim, 37, was last seen on Dec. 5 when she went out for lunch while she was at the Queens Centers for Progress (QCP). She was scheduled for a medical clinic appointment that afternoon, but had canceled the appointment, according to QCP.

Her worried parents, who say Kadim has a childlike mentality and needs daily medication, had not heard from her for weeks. But on Sunday their daughter came home to them. Further details on where she was during the time she was missing were not disclosed.

Staff of QCP and The Shield Institute in Bayside, where she also receives services, said she is looking forward to resuming her usual activities at their centers.


Developmentally disabled Queens woman missing for more than a month

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of NYPD

A Richmond Hill woman who is developmentally disabled and needs daily medication has been missing since early December, according to one of the centers where she receives services.

Bibi Kadim, 37, was last seen on Dec. 5. That day, Kadim had gone for lunch in the Jamaica neighborhood where Queens Centers for Progress (QCP), a place she goes for services, is located.

After she did not return from lunch, the staff called her mother. She told them that her daughter was scheduled for a medical clinic appointment that afternoon, but that Kadim had canceled, according to QCP.

Her parents, who live with Kadim in their home, have not heard from their daughter since she went missing.

The Shield Institute in Bayside, where Kadim also receives services, has known her for nearly 18 years. The center describes her as a very friendly individual who can communicate her wants and needs verbally. But, according to her parents, she has a child-like mentality.

She is also diabetic and needs daily medication and therefore is “at great risk,” according to QCP.

“We are obviously very concerned that Bibi has been missing for this length of time,” said Charles Houston, CEO of QCP said in a statement. “QCP and The Shield Institute are working with the family and police to bring Bibi home.”

Kadim is 5 feet 5 inches tall and 194 pounds. She was last seen wearing a pink hoodie, navy blue jacket, blue jeans and  sneakers.

Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 800-577-TIPS (8477). The public can also submit their tips by logging onto the Crime Stoppers website or can text their tips to CRIMES (274637), then enter TIP577. All calls are strictly confidential.


Courier brings holiday cheer, toys to kids at Queens Centers for Progress’ Apple Preschool

| ctumola@queenscourier.com


Santa brought smiles and of course toys to the good boys and girls at Queens Centers for Progress’ Apple Preschool in Jamaica for The Queens Courier’s annual holiday gift drive.

Ringing his bell and calling out a jolly “ho ho ho,” some of the kids were a little shy of Old Saint Nick, but most of the around 90 students were excited to see him and receive the donated toys on Friday, December 13.

The Apple Preschool program offers children with disabilities between three to five years old a large variety of educational and therapeutic services, including speech, occupational and physical therapy and counseling. The children interact with special education teachers and clinicians who work on language skills, cognitive, motor and social development. After participating in the program, the majority of the children become integrated into the public school system.

Toys were donated to The Courier’s holiday gift drive by Courier readers and advertisers as well as from Assemblymember Edward Braunstein, who also received a donation for the drive on behalf of Boy Scout Troop 49 of Sacred Heart in Bayside, and Victor G. Mimoni, director of communications for Councilmember Dan Halloran, who additionally gave a generous toy donation.

“A lot of these kids come from low-income households. This extra little treat means a lot to them and their parents,” said teacher Missy Karvecky.

She prepared her class for Kriss Kringle’s visit by reading them a book about Santa called It’s Christmas David.

The day was extra special for Tommy, 3, who was also celebrating his birthday Friday, and had just joined the Apple Preschool program two weeks earlier.

“This is the happiest I’ve seen him,” said his teacher, Julie Fidelman.

“It was wonderful to see [all the kids’] faces light up after they saw Santa,” she said.

Another student, Jayden, 4, was also happy to see Santa and looking forward to going home and racing his new toy truck.

“I loved it,” he said. “I’m going to tell my mommy [about Santa’s visit].”





The Queens Courier collecting toys, clothing for holiday gift drive

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Help make the holidays bright.

The holiday season has arrived, and The Queens Courier will once again be collecting toys and clothing to be donated this year to the Queens Centers for Progress’ Apple Preschool in Jamaica for our annual holiday gift drive.

The Apple Preschool program offers children with disabilities between three to five years old a large variety of educational and therapeutic services, including speech, occupational and physical therapy and counseling. The children interact with special education teachers and clinicians who work on language skills, cognitive, motor and social development. After participating in the program, the majority of the children become integrated into the public school system.

Apple Preschool is asking for new, unused and unwrapped donations for their students, 31 girls and 52 boys between the ages of three and four.

Donations can be dropped off at The Courier’s office, located at 38-15 Bell Boulevard in Bayside or at People’s United Bank branches at 8989 Union Turnpike in Glendale or 34-51 48th Street in Long Island City.




Program directors say restored funds for disabled not enough

| mhayes@queenscourier.com

The looming cuts to the Office for People With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) have been restored, but only by a fraction.

Initially, the state’s budget called for a total slash of $240 million from OPWDD services, but the final budget gave back $30 million. Program administrators say this is still not enough.

“The challenge our industry faces is a growing demand with a diminishing revenue stream. The work force now has to shrink,” said Peter Smergut, executive director at Life’s WORC.

Life’s WORC, a program geared towards assisting developmentally disabled individuals lead active and independent lifestyles, has a 76 percent cost of labor. Now, because of the cuts, they have had to “freeze” employee positions, not fill other positions and also look to reallocate resources in ways they would not have traditionally thought to do, Smergut said.

Disabled services organizations rely heavily on funding from OPWDD, and without it, some groups find it difficult to make any concrete adjustments in their spending.

“It’s tough to be in an environment when you’re relying on this funding, and the funding is constantly changing,” said Dr. Susan Provenzano of The Shield Institute.

Initially, the State Senate and the Assembly voted to restore $120 million to the OPWDD budget. Assemblymember Nily Rozic said that along with community groups such as the Queens Centers for Progress, they attempted to bring the necessity of a full restoration to the forefront.

“Through subsequent negotiations, we were able to secure $30 million for these critical services, but not nearly enough,” Rozic said. “I will continue to speak out on the need for a greater restoration to avoid program closures, staff layoffs and irreparable harm to some of our state’s most vulnerable residents.”

Rozic did say however that the state budget provides a balanced spending plan that addresses fundamental issues facing families, including increasing the state’s minimum wage and providing schools with the funding needed for children to receive a quality education.

“Any cuts are devastating,” said Provenzano. “We have to provide stability. We have to constantly be advocating, and it leaves a lot of questions for us approaching the future.”



Tradition makes the holidays bright for kids

| mhayes@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Maggie Hayes

“I love seeing Santa!” said Natasha Ayala, a student at the Queens Centers for Progress (QCP), as she pet her new stuffed dog. “I have my own dog at home, too.”

Last week, the Jamaica Rotary made its yearly donation of hundreds of toys to QCP as dozens of excited children eagerly opened their presents.

“The children really look forward to it every year,” said Maryann McAleer of QCP.

Roughly 250 toys were delivered this year to children with developmental disabilities, including cerebral palsy.

Santa Claus and a snowman went class-to-class, delivering Barbie dolls and toy trucks to bright-eyed kids.

The Jamaica Rotary has been making this its holiday tradition for the past 12 years, and each year is just as exciting as the last.

“It’s a joyous day for them, they love it,” said McAleer of the students. “The Jamaica Rotary Club makes these children extremely happy.”